Continental drifts in a multipolar world – Challenges for Africa-Europe relations in 2019

ECDPM’s annual Challenges Paper seeks to identify this year’s important debates and to sketch the backdrop against which these will unfold. The aim is to offer perspectives on the change processes at play in Europe and in Africa and the impact on their relations.

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    More than a year after the 2017 AU-EU Summit in Abidjan, formal political engagement on the Africa-EU partnership seems to have stalled, both sides engrossed in more immediate concerns. The African Union (AU) is exploring new partnerships and taking unprecedented steps towards continental integration, in economics, politics and institutions. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) is confronting a rather different dynamic – one that divides its membership on these very same themes.

    In Africa, the impetus for continental integration has never been stronger. African leaders made several groundbreaking decisions in 2018 to expedite the AU’s institutional and financial reform. The coming year will test the weight of its member states’ commitment to partially self-finance the AU, to promote intra-continental trade through the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and to make good on the pledge to ‘Silence the Guns’ by 2020.

    In Europe, calls for a united, stronger Union, able to navigate the issues of the day continue to be constrained by the rise of nationalist, protectionist politics in some member states. In addition, several European processes will coincide in 2019, creating a “perfect storm” that will determine the Union’s future engagement on the world stage. Among these are the European Parliament elections, the negotiation of the multiannual financial framework (MFF), the culmination of Brexit and the negotiation of a successor partnership agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.

    These ongoing institutional and political processes and dynamics will influence the ability of the AU and EU to work together on issues of common concern in a spirit of partnership between equals.

    Yet, there are windows of opportunities to revamp the EU-Africa partnership in 2019. This paper examines some of those and looks ahead at what to expect in the coming year. We pay particular attention to converging and diverging interests, across member states, between the member states and their respective continental organisations – the EU and the AU, and between the two continents themselves.

    About ECDPM’s annual Challenges Paper

    Would you like to know more about the Challenges Paper and read past editions? Please take a look at our dedicated dossier.

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